Nawab Hafiz Sir Ahmad Said Khan - Nawab Chattari

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Nawab Chattari

Nawab Hafiz Sir Ahmad Said Khan - Nawab Chattari

Naved Masood*

Zamindars in parts of Northern India[2] enjoyed the right to collect land revenue in their ‘estates’ (Zamindaris). They also had to perform certain ‘managerial functions’ on behalf of the government within their ‘estates’. Most (though not all), were titled ‘Nawab’ or ‘Raja’ depending on their religious affiliations. The common public perception of the Zamindar was one of a petty tyrant to the tiller of the soil who was a lackey of the ‘sarkar’ and an impediment to any improvement in agrarian conditions. This was substantially correct as it conformed to observed facts. There were exceptions to this prototype; among the Zamindars a few displayed extraordinary managerial abilities, and fewer still who were a friend to their ‘ryots’ [3]. Rare indeed was the Zamindar who combined in himself the two virtues – Nawab Ahmad Saeed Khan of Chhatari was one such rarity.

Formative Years

Born in 1888, Ahmad Saeed Khan was the son of Abdul Ali Khan[4] the Zamindar of Chattari then a small estate administratively in Bulandshahr District but more proximate to Aligarh city some twenty miles away. The family was ‘Muslim Rajput’ or ‘Lalkhanis’. Ahmad Saeed started his school education late as he had early religious instructions at home resulting in his being a “Hafiz’ i.e. one who commits the entire Quranic text to memory. He joined ‘English House’, the boarding for the scions of the elite away from but attached to the Muhammedan Anglo Oriental Collegiate School popularly known as ‘Minto Circle’. After passing the matriculate or tenth class in 1906 he had to concentrate on managing the affairs of his Zamindari following the death of his father. So small was his ‘estate’ that initially he was not even recognised as ‘Nawab’ and had to be content with the title “Kunwar”, it was in 1915 that he was recognized as “Nawab” for life – the title was made hereditary four years later in recognition of his proven capabilities which will find mention later.

The settlement report of Bulandshahr District (1915) takes note of the unusual interest taken by the young Zamindar in ‘agricultural improvements’ in his Zamindari. By then a good number of Zamindars were indolent absentees staying in the comfort of cities with the management of the estates being left to local musclemen or resident relatives. The cultivators were often harassed not only for realization of revenue but even for collection of arbitrary levies which sometime extended to the absurd hathiana and motorana being respectively cost of maintaining elephants and motor cars! Anyway, a feature of Nawab Sahib’s Zamindari management was his constant endeavour to develop infrastructure in his village, improvements in cattle breeds and seed quality so that the income from the estate improved. By 1920 he had managed to add many more villages to Chhatari by buying their Zamindari rights. What is more, he managed to establish new villages by bringing fallow tracts under cultivation. Indeed in later years he was to lament (in his two volumes autobiography yade ayyam) that if he had the foresight he would be establishing industries rather than acquiring more villages. The fact remains that in a few decades before abolition of the system, he was the last Zamindar in UP to have considerably added to his estate.

Public Life

The introduction of elected District Boards in the wake of the Government of India Act 1919 provided an opportunity to local elites to work for area development of their District as also to try their hand at ‘party politics’. While much development was witnessed in the southern and western parts of the country, in UP there was little progress and much politics in the Boards. One of the very few exceptions was Bulandshahr where the young Ahmad Saeed was first elected Chairman of the Board. The experience he gained in improvement of his own estate was put to very good use in the public cause and his Board stole a march over all others in the matter of opening schools, extending irrigation network, opening of dispensaries and above all starting the innovative practice of starting arrangements for marketing of agricultural produce – Bulandshahr soon became a ‘show case’ with Presidents and other office bearers of other District Boards making a beeline for the place to see for themselves how the hitherto unachieved was achieved.

Round Table Conference
Nawab Chattari attending the round table conference in England

His achievements did not go unnoticed and the Zamindars of the District elected him to be the member of the UP Legislative Council in 1920 where he played a pioneering role in initiating policies to develop agro-industries and institutional credit for the agricultural sector. As Minister Industries he was the founding father of establishing sugar industry and modern flour mills in the province. In 1925 he was appointed Home Member[5] a position which he held till 1933. As Home Member he was responsible for introducing a system of competitive test for recruitment of ‘upper subordinates’ (personnel above the rank of Head Constable) replace the earlier system of ‘recommendations’. He also took the revolutionary step of throwing open recruitment of certain ‘excluded castes’ – chiefly ‘ahirs’ and kurmis – at the upper subordinate level. In politics he was the leader of Zamindar party in the provincial legislature. Being a cross communal alliance this party is believed to have acted as a cushion in absorbing communal tensions in the period 1925 to 1935. With a proven track record in consensus building he was an invitee to the first and second round table conferences held in London to find a solution to the political problems of India and to frame a constitutional framework for the country to accommodate the emerging political realities.

His public services and administrative competence were recognised when he was appointed to officiate as Governor of UP for a year in 1933 – this was the first time ever that an Indian was appointed to the position in any province. He was knighted in 1928 and there are indications that in 1933 there was a move to make him a ‘Lord temporal’.
Following the enactment of the Government of India Act 1935 which introduced a quasi federal polity, he withdrew from active politics but his counsel remained available in Government Committees. He was invited to be the Prime Minister of Hyderabad State in 1941, a position which he held till 1943 and to which he was reappointed in 1947 at a time of great turmoil. He made sincere efforts to facilitate peaceful merger of Hyderabad with the newly emerged Indian Union but was made to quit by the hotheads led by Qasim Razvi of the Majlis-i-Ittehadul Muslimeen with tragic consequences wrought by Police Action of September 1948.

Aligarh Affairs

He remained involved with the affairs of the MAO College and the University throughout his life from 1911 when he was first elected a Trustee of the College. He was the founder member of the Court of the University and remained associated with that body either as member or late Pro Chancellor and later still as Chancellor. His association with the Government of UP stood the University in good stead as he was instrumental in providing finances for establishment of the Ahmedi School for the Blind and in sanctioning grants for the Girls School and Intermediate College run by Shaikh Mohammed Abdullah till the institutions became part of the University in 1941.
In later years though his association with the University was in very formal and titular positions as Pro Chancellor and Chancellor, he was a symbol of continuity and a link of the past with a fast changing scenario - such linkages have their own importance in maintaining continuity and stability in institutions.

Maulana Azad_Syedna_Tahir
Nawab Chattari with Syedna Saifuddin Tahir and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad

King Saud with Nawab Chattari and Dr Zakir Hussain 2
Nawab Chattari receiving King Saud of Saudi Arabia at AMU Aligarh

President UAE Shaikh Zaiyed
Nawab Chattari with President of UAE Shaikh Zaiyed at AMU Aligarh with AMU Students Union

Nawab Chattari introducing his son to Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Prime Minister of India during his visit to AMU

Tinku Abdul rahman with Nawab chhatari
Nawab Chattari with Tinku Abdul Rahman, Founding Prime Minister of Malaysia during his visit to AMU

Raja Mahendar Pratap Singh with BP Mprya
Nawab Chattari with Raja Mahendar Pratap Singh, First President of Indian exile Government during British rule.Raja Mahendar Pratap Singh was an AMU alum

Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad groupings with AMU Riding Club
Nawab Chattari with H.E. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad President of India during his visit to AMU

P Shiv Shankar Foreign Minister of India
Nawab Chattari with P Shiv Shankar, Foreign Minister of India. Mr. Syed Shahabuddin (IFS) can also be seen in the picture.

Raja Karan Singh with Nawab Chattari
Nawab Chattari honoring Raja Karan Singh of Kashmir at AMU Convocation

Indira Gandhi visit
Nawab Chattari with Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Prof. Abdul Aleem, VC AMU is also seen in the picture

The Extraordinary Human Being

A man of innate charm and pleasant disposition, to all who had the good fortune of coming in contact with him, his humility and affection was palpable. In a speech in Aligarh Mrs. Vijayluxmi Pandit recounted that when she was incarcerated in Naini Central Jail for her part in the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1933 Nawab Sahib came to inspect the prison as Governor and burst into tears seeing the daughter of Motilal Nehru languishing behind the bars! In his autobiography he refers to the death of his wife who left behind young children and mentions that during the course of the day he would play joyfully with the children and at night tiptoe to their room and shed tears at their loss. As long as age and health permitted, he personally led Taraweeh prayers in the mosque attached to his residence Rahat Manzil in Aligarh. It was not as if he was just a bundle of touching emotions, unlike the run of the mill landlord he had imbibed much wisdom in his eventful career. In 1977 he invited those who had made it to the IAS and allied services over for dinner at his place; dining over, he gave us three pieces of advice which are worth repeating in full. First do not praise or run down anyone in superlatives – you may have to change your opinion. Second control your anger – it is infectious. Third learn the language of the people among whom you find yourselves – else you will be at the mercy of vested interests. It is a moot point how much of that sage advice was put to practice by us but thirty four years down the road this writer testifies to their innate perspicuity.

*Mr. Naved Masood is an AMU Alum and a senior Civil Servant in Govt. of India and he is based in New Delhi. He can be reached at

[1] Nawab Hafiz Sir Ahmad Said Khan - That his how the name was spelt in Government records.

[2] In Punjab the term Zamindar simply connoted a peasant.

[3]This word is an anglicized corruption of the word “reyaya” or subject of a ruler. In its corrupted form, however, the word means peasants paying land revenue.

[4]It is a coincidence no doubt but an extraordinary coincidence that two of the most enterprising Muslims of the last century, Khwaja Abdul Hamied and the Nawab of Chhatari were born within a radius of twenty miles and their fathers bore the same name – Abdul Ali!

[5]Under the Government of India Act 1919 certain subjects were ‘transferred’ to the provinces and included agriculture, education and industries etc – these subjects were looked after by Ministers appointed among elected members of the Legislative Council; other subjects like Home and Finance were ‘reserved’ and directly administered by the Governor with the help of ‘Members’ who were de facto Ministers subject to the difference that their accountability was to the Governor and not the Council.

Extra ordinary coincidence

Biographies of great men have always fascinated me for two reasons: One, the the actual trials and tribulations of the person and the qualities that make him/her great, and second the style and rhetoric of the narrator, which Naved Masood Saheb's account of Nawab Saheb's life fulfills. He cites the fascinating coincidences of history about Khwaja Abdul Hamid and Nawab of Chhattari ((Refernce #4)
For those interested in trivia about American history: two of the founding fathers of United States of America-John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, one the President and the other his Vice-President, died the same day exactly 50 years after the Declaration of Independence, i.e. July 4th, 1826. They shared a voluminous exchange of letters which are preserved at the Library of Congress. Adam's son, John Quincy Adams was the President at the time of their deaths!

Extra ordinary coincidence

I did not mean to be anonymous; it was just a premature click.

Abdul Wase,
Dayton, Ohio

Nawab Chathaari

Dear Mr Afzal,

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Javaid Said and I am the elder son of Mr Ibne Said.

It was very kind of you to remember my Grand Father, Nawab Ahmad Said khan of Chathaari, by hosting the article written by Mr Naved Masud, on your portal.
We ( my father and I ) are in the process of making his autobiography, Yade Ayam, concise and have it translated into English.

with warm regards

Javaid Said

Thanks to the creator of the website.,

i could see some fantastic pics of Nawab Chattari. He was the Prime Minister of Hyderabad during a very critical period in history. Both Nawab Chattari and Sir. Mirza Ismail were very wise men and had given great advise.,but sorry to say, the Nizam of Hyderabad played a very dirty and dangeorus game (playing both sides - or running with the hare and hunting with the hound - sailing in 2 boats or falling between 2 stools). Unfortunately Police Action (Operation Polo Sept 13, 1948) was avoidable ! It was a man-made disaster. The Nizam was addicted to opium, and could not THINK straight. His Advisors were great men who did their best - gave great advice - but the Nizam did NOT act ! Indecision proved to be his undoing. But more than an individual, lakhs of muslims (spread in the interior of Hyderabad Dominion) perished. People settled "old scores". Law and Order completely broke down.

Anyways., I tried my best to read YAAD-E-AIYYAAM by Nawab Chattari., but couldnt. Therefore IF it is possible., i would want you to scan and upload the whole Yaad-e-Aiyyam - so that those who are interested can read it in pdf.format.

P.S. Nature compensates in some way ! My admiration for the Chattaris was compensated.... I met the great man's son... the same moustache... it didnt take me 10 secs to connect !

Thank You.

Nawab Chhattari Sahab

Quite fascinating and informative! but please note that ‘Tunku Abdul Rahman’ was not the vice president of Indonesia. He was actually the Chief Minister of the Federation of Malaya and the first Prime Minister of Malaysia in 1957. ‘Tunku’ belonged to the royal family before Malaysia got independence. To read more about Tunku Abdul Rahman, please refer wiki article:
Thanks to my Indonesian friend, who pointed me out this info!

Syed Ziaur Rahman

Nawab of Chhattari

Such was the position and status of Nawab sahib

Great article by Mr Naved Masood...

I happened to visit Viceregal house in Shimla, the royal abode of viceroys in India. Inside it were rare old pictures on display. One of them was a group photo with Lord Mountbatten. To my surprise, I noted Nawab chattari sitting next to Lord Mountabatten, shoulder to shoulder. In the last row, hidden in one of the obscured corner of the group, was standing Dr Ambedkar. Such was the position and status of Nawab sahib.

Dr. Babar Nazir
New Delhi

These are minor things.

Do not care for that ! You are still into the "Status" mould. Sitting next to Mountbatten is NOT a gr8 thing. Mountbatten was a crook ! Nawab Chattari was a gr8 man., and so was Ambedkar. Do not fall for vanity. Its a curse. You are still trapped in the container. Look for the CONTENT, Mister !

Zaat na poocho sadhu kee, pooch leejiye gyaan
Mol karo talwaar ki - padi rehne do myaan

Aligarh mein bas jhooti tareef ek doosrey ki. Infact STANDARD bahut hee low ho gaya. Haqeeqat kaho, to log naraaz. Munafiqat kaa ek bazaar hai.. aur bas.

Great article by Mr Naved

Great article by Mr Naved Masood...

I happened to visit Viceregal house in Shimla, the royal abode of viceroys and power center of India. Inside it were rare old pre-partition pictures on display. One of them was a group photo with Lord Mountbatten. To my surprise, I noted Nawab chattari sitting in front row, next to Lord Mountabatten, rubbing shoulder to shoulder. And, in the last row, hidden in one of the obscured corner of the group, was standing Dr Ambedkar. Such was the position and status of Nawab sahib.

Dr Babar Nazir, Singapore

Sir Syed Bi-Centenary


Hamiduddin Farahi


ZH Chowdhury

Satish Chandra